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Creating a Conceptual Art Museum on the Web

by Sunny Merik, Public Affairs
posted July 15, 1998

Even though conceptual artist and Berkeley grad Theresa Cha is gone &emdash; murdered in 1982 at the age of 31 &emdash; her work, words, and ideas live on as part of CIAO, Conceptual and Intermedia Arts Online.

CIAO, the brainchild of Berkeley Art Museum staff and a recent recipient of $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts, links conceptual art collections from seven museums across the country and in Canada. The Cha collection is the most comprehensive of BAM's collections at the CIAO site.

Conceptual art &emdash; intended to convey an idea or a concept &emdash; can include multimedia, mixed media, performance pieces, film, video, installations, and other nontraditional art forms that are transient and ephemeral.

"It's difficult to display this kind of art in a museum," said Rod Macneil, the publicist for Berkeley Art Museum. "If you're not in the museum when the artist performs her piece, you miss it. However, if there's a video of that performance, we can put it online along with the artist's comments, and people can tap in from across the country and learn about the artist and the work."

CIAO links significant collections of conceptual art for scholars, students, and the public. The other six institutions with CIAO collections are Dartmouth College's Hood Museum, Franklin Furnace, Getty Research Institute, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Walker Art Center.

"BAM has three conceptual art collections that will be included in CIAO," said Richard Rinehart, information systems manager for BAM/PSA and CIAO project manager. "Right now we have more than 500 records, essays and other textual parts of the Theresa Cha collection online. This summer we'll add the images, video and sound files."

Early next month, representatives from each of the seven CIAO museums will meet on campus to develop strategies for fundraising and continued development of the linked collections.

"We'll be together for two days and by the end of that time, the CIAO site should have six new collections online, ready for visitors," said Rinehart. The goal is to have dozens of collections at the CIAO site eventually, Rinehart said.

To see the Cha collection visit the Web site at

More information on CIAO is available at

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